Remember when Uni Jobs were Handed out like Candy?
Anyone who has been in a Korea for at least a few years (or 10 in my case) has seen the decline of the Korean ESL industry as a whole, from hagwons to public schools to universities. 10 years ago, anyone with a pulse could get a hagwon (private institute job), public school jobs were plentiful and Korean uni jobs were being handed out like candy to those with just a Bachelor’s degree and perhaps a year or two of experience at a public school or hagwon.
It’s a Race for the Bottom These Days
These days, even hagwon jobs seem to be pretty scarce and it seems to be a race to the bottom for the lowest salary and weakest job benefits. The main reason is that there are just too many decently-qualified people looking for work and everyone and their dog knows about teaching in Korea these days.
Public School Cuts
In addition, there are also fewer teaching positions available as public schools have been bleeding jobs for the past 3 or 4 years, with almost all middle and high-schools cutting their native English speaker positions. Even elementary schools are cutting, with teachers having to work at 2 or 3 different schools instead of a single one like in the past.
Korean Demographics = Disaster for Uni Positions in 5 Years
Universities don’t seem to be cutting too many positions for native English speakers but that will change within the next few years due to Korean demographics. Korea has had one of the lowest birth rates in the world for the past 10 or 15 years and children born during this era will be reaching university age in the next few years. The government is at the beginning of a process that will force the lowest ranking universities to close.
The Glory Days are Done
What am I saying? The happy days of Korea as a prime ESL teaching destination are indeed over, much the way things went with Japan, just a few years later in the case of Korea. Only the most qualified will get those prime uni jobs with low teaching hours, motivated students, high pay and full vacations while everyone else will be left fighting for the okay or crappy stuff. Salaries and benefits like free plane tickets and housing will keep decreasing. Public school jobs will start to go to those with serious qualifications like a teaching certificate from their home country and pay will remain around 2 million Won.
The writing is on the wall. The old-timers are starting to leave, which should say a lot.
I, myself have planned my exit strategy that involves going back to Canada and changing careers because I’d rather leave at the top than stick with the sinking ship. I would suggest that those who are making longer-term plans, thinking that Korea is going to be a winner for English teachers should perhaps reconsider another country like Vietnam or China? Upgrading qualifications and getting into teacher training? Changing careers?
There are plenty of fish in the sea so why place your bets on the one flopping around on the dry-land?
My thoughts on the up and coming ESL teaching destinations found here:
The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future